I have a secret to share. Better listen closely, because I’ll only admit to this once. The ghosts of authors past will haunt me in my nightmares if I dare to do this as it is. But you see, authors aren’t just hyper-creatives who crack open the rooms of their imaginations and allow you a glimpse inside.
These books… they’re catharsis–that amazing thing that happens when some pet peeve gets under your skin and festers. So, instead of eradicating said peeve, we welcome it into the inner sanctum of our imagination, offer it a place on the comfiest couch, and ask it to reveal its deepest secrets.
Secrets we then exploit to our hearts’ content. And, well… for that catharsis thing. And you know what? That’s where we get our best stories.
Caveat: This post is purely speculation—my imaginings gone a little wild. Those pesky peeves are really good at that.
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Jane Austen’s pet peeve: the idea that women must be emotional, melodramatic, irrational creatures.
I imagine a parlor—pretty papers on the wall, but not elegant. Just the kind of papers one would expect of a small, country manor. Miss Austen flings a book aside, dismayed and discouraged by the portrayal of women in books. “The last offered the image of a young lady with little sense and even less courage—inclined to the melodramatic and macabre. And this drivel…”
Her sister offers a comforting smile. “Write a better story, Jane.”
And so it begins. What began as a single satirical novel in the Gothic vein, grows into another as the second character refuses to share the stage with such a silly creature as that Catherine Moreland. “I’ll have to give Sophia her own story. Perhaps the wife of an Admiral. I imagine her with him on every journey, always eager to be by his side.”
“But would a woman find such accommodations agreeable, Jane? Are allowing your indignation too much rein?”
A smile forms as Jane scribbles a note to herself, speaking each word aloud as she does. “Have… someone… question… her… sin-cer-i-ty. She… then… asserts… ‘I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.’”
L. M. Montgomery’s pet peeve: when people leave the constructive out of criticism.
The page rustled as, weary and in desperate need of a cup of tea and a sandwich, Lucy turned the paper over to pull forward the next in a thick stack of pages to be edited. Chicken scratches over the surface of the page forced her eyes inward until they crossed.
“I’m as cross as my eyes! Is any word sufficiently grand for this editor? Is the difference between ‘alarming’ and ‘startling’ so very great that I must consider a change? Now if we compared say… languid with… foreboding….” (note… this is adapted from te movie. Work with me here.)
Lucy swept the stack of papers from her desk and watched the delicious effects of gravity. Most landed on the floor with a satisfying thud—sliding a bit, of course, but rather intact. But the top layers caught a bit of air as they left the surface and floated to the floor in swoops and sweeps reminiscent of a kite in the wind.
“If those scratches were the words of a wife, or husband—a mother or grandmother—they’d have the encouraging effects of Rachel Lynde when riled. I do believe I’d just run away!”
She sat there, arms folded over her chest, pen abandoned on the desk. The rustle of skirts—it would be the new girl. “Mrs. Montgomery, ma’am?”
“Yes, Esther…” Despite every effort, the weariness she felt impregnated itself in both words.
“Oh, your work! I’ll—”
“Leave it, Esther. What did you need?”
This time Lucy’s met the girl’s gaze and she attempted a weak smile. Esther beamed a great, wide smile that seemed to engulf half her face. “It’s just those valancy things that go over the windows? One looks awful faded, ma’am, and the rain’ll be here before it dries…”
“Leave them off, then. I’ve been planning new ones, any—”
But mid-word, Lucy turned, pulled a new sheet of paper from the drawer, and began scribbling a line.
If it had not rained on a certain May morning, Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been very different.”
Agatha Christie’s pet peeve: when husbands use the mental to cure the physical.
The pen dropped onto the page, as Agatha stared at the insipid words with which she’d just soiled a perfectly innocent piece of paper. Across the room, a newspaper rustled. Without bothering to lower it, Archie Christie cleared his throat and said, “Trouble in paradise, darling?”
“I don’t believe that any rational human being is capable of penning a decent romantic scene when the body demands sustenance.”
“There are biscuits in the tin—and a cup of tea would brace me nicely, as well.”
I imagine it would. I, on the other hand, long for something a bit more substantial. Sausages, or perhaps a beef chop. Yes, that would do nicely.
She set down her pen and moved to retrieve her purse and hat. “I believe I’ll pop on down to Bouchard’s. I’ve a fearful desire for beef.” She gave a scornful look at the blank page waiting for her return. “I’ll never be able to write a declaration worth reading if I don’t fortify myself first.”
“Nonsense.” But despite his protest, Archie stood as if to follow. “It hasn’t been long enough since breakfast for your mind to be weakened with hunger.”
It hasn’t been long enough since breakfast for you to begin your incessant nattering, either.
Aloud, she merely said, “Are you sure my irrational company won’t be too much of a bother…”
“Of course, not. And I do adore Bouchard’s Belgian cream puffs.”
You would think only of sweets. But by the base of the steps, poor Archie had transformed in her mind’s eye. His trim figure ballooned into the gentle swell of a man much accustomed to excellent fare. His bushy mustache thinned, twisted, curled. A certain fastidiousness formed, and in a fit of contrariness, Agatha decided he’d much prefer weak tea—very weak tea.
She paused, turned, and raced back up again. “I’ll catch up to you, darling. I just need to take down this idea of mine.”
For hours, her pen scratched across the page. First a character—then a name Poirot. “He’ll be fastidious—as much as certain other gentlemen of my acquaintance. And he’ll be excessively concerned with the shape of his food…”
As she added another line, Agatha reached for one of the biscuits that filled the little plate beside her.
What is all this with the pet peeves?
Well, as you’ve probably surmised, this week’s topic in my blog challenge was “My biggest pet peeve.” Yeah. I do try, desperately, to roust out all pet peeves and send them to rescue farms in the country where they may grow and flourish without raising my ire and… yeah. Whatever. I didn’t really think you wanted to hear all about how annoying it is when book covers don’t match the insides.
Seriously, though. No matter how amazing a cover is… if the book takes place in winter in a super cold place, don’t show me a girl in a sundress walking hand-in-hand with her fella on a street canopied by green leaves from the trees overhead. Not that I’ve ever had that happen to me.
I still haven’t left that review. As you can see, that’s probably a good thing. Well, that’s all I’ve got for you. Until next week and something about word count. Oh, that sounds scintillating. Woo.
Confession: I just glanced at the scrawl in my planner and seriously thought next week’s blog post prompt said, “How much do good covers matter.” Ahem. Maybe it’s bedtime.